Workplace Devotionals

June 24, 2011

Adoption

I recently gave my 10th and final speech of the Toastmasters Competent Communicator manual – the speech definitely has a devotional feel to it, so I thought I would inaugurate my participation on workplacedevotionals by sharing the speech here.  Enjoy!

Introduction

When I was thinking about how I might inspire you today, I decided to share something that has deeply impacted my life and that of my family.  It is a joy that has enriched our lives and increased the love in our family.  This afternoon, I will share with you about adoption.  I hope what I share will inspire you to respond through investigating adoption for your family, through supporting financially and prayerfully those who are trying to adopt, and through reaching out to widows and orphans in your neighborhood.

My Experience with Adoption

First, I would like to share what my experience with adoption has been like.  I have a photo of my family, minus my Dad, stepmom, youngest brother, and youngest sister who is now two years old.  The photo was taken at my sister Sydney’s graduation a couple of weeks ago.  The family members in this photograph include my Mom Jody, my brothers David and Alex, and my sisters Sydney and Madison.  In this picture you would  probably notice that my two sisters look a little different than the rest of the family members – that is because they were both adopted from South Korea when they were a couple of months old.  But don’t let the looks fool you – these girls are Menenbergs through and through.

I consider the adoption of both of my sisters to be a joy and great benefit to my family for two main reasons.  The first reason is that adoption has been a blessing to my sisters.  We don’t know the exact circumstances they faced before being brought into our family, but we know that had they not been adopted, their parents would not have been able to care for them and they likely would have spent time in orphanages and without a family.  They might not have had a Mom and a Dad, and they likely wouldn’t have grown up with 3 older brothers.  My family certainly isn’t perfect, but I know that being part of our family has been a great blessing for them.  Their physical needs have been met, they have been educated, and they have been part of a loving immediate and extended family.

Secondly, I consider the adoption to be a huge success because it has been a blessing to myself and the rest of my family members.  Sydneyis now 22 years old and graduated from the Universityof Washingtonthis month.  This Saturday, she left for Washington DC for a year-long consulting job.  She is thoughtful, intelligent, loving, and honest, and it has been a real joy to get to know her over the last 22 years.  Madison is 13 years old, and she just finished 7th grade. Madison is sophisticated, observant, thoughtful, and caring, and she is a tremendous addition in our family.  She is a great badminton player, and playing with her is one of my favorite things to do.  We have been enriched by their sense of humor, by their sensitivity, and by their beauty.  These two girls have made our family immeasurably richer, and I am thankful that God brought both of them into our family.

Biblical Mandate for Adoption.

My family has certainly been blessed by adoption, and it is nice to reminisce about the joy we have experienced.  However, as a Christian, this is more than just a nice story.  Adoption is a central teaching of the Bible and is essential to a proper understanding of our relationship to God.

Romans 8:14-17 says: “14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”

As Christians, we must never forget the great truth that at one time, we too were “children of wrath”.  We were separated from God because of our sin, and we were destined for judgment because of our rebellion.  However, God, in His mercy, while we were yet sinners, sent His Son Jesus Christ to die the death that we deserve and forgive our sin so that we might be reconciled to Him.  And then what did He do?  He adopted us into His family.  Now, for those of us in Christ, we are not orphans, but we have a heavenly Father who loves us.  We have brothers and sisters who are part of our family.  We have our inheritance in God Himself.  This is the doctrine of adoption, and this doctrine is central to the Gospel.

For those of us who are in Christ and who have been adopted – what does it mean that we have been adopted?  How do we respond to this Gospel of free grace and adoption into sonship?  How do we return the generous love of our God who gave Himself for us?  John chapter 21 offers some insight into the proper response when Jesus asks Peter if he loves him.  Three times Jesus asks the question, “Peter, do you love me?”, 3 times Peter responds, “Lord, you know that I love you”, and 3 times Jesus responds to him: “Tend my lambs”.  Jesus, in no uncertain language, tells Peter that genuine love for Jesus is more than a verbal affirmation of love.  True love for Jesus will result in a Christian loving Jesus’ sheep.  And I ask you today: which of Jesus’ sheep are more in need of love than orphans without a family?

For those of us who are in Christ and have faith in His atoning work – what will the natural result of this faith be?  James 1:26 states the following: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  James later goes on to state that faith without works is dead.  Therefore, we must conclude that true faith in God’s love and adoption to sonship will result in Christians responding to the needs of widows and orphans.  It will result in Christians opening up their homes and welcoming orphans, trusting in God even when there is uncertainty about how things will go.  Real faith will result in other Christians giving generously to support others who are adopting.

The Need
Now that I have shared my story and the Biblical mandate to practice adoption, you may ask: what is the need?  There are a variety of statistics that I saw in my research, but the picture i saw is clearly staggering.  Most statistics suggest that there are over 100,000 foster children in the US and millions of orphans worldwide. This is an overwhelming number and we may wonder if it is possible for one person to make a difference.  To this I simply say: ask my sisters if adoption has made a difference in their lives.  Ask another adopted child you know what it meant to them.  Even if we as individuals cannot adopt every orphan, we can make a difference in one life at a time. And if the church together rises to this challenge, we can fulfill the great commission through opening our homes to orphans and adopting them into our families.  If we fail to respond and do nothing, these orphans may not be adopted into any family, and they may end up as victims of human trafficking, in jail, or dead.  The stakes could not be higher for each of these children.

The Response
How will you respond to this need?  For my wife and I, we have increasingly felt a burden to respond to this need.  I am being seconded to Zambia by my organization later this summer for a year-long assignment.  We are thrilled for the opportunity to live in Zambia and serve the Zambian people.  However, we believe that God may have something more in store for us than simply working for World Vision.  We have talked about adoption since we first got married, and we planned to adopt at some point.  However, for more than a year, we have experienced infertility, and as a result, we are prayerfully seeking the Lord to see whether or not this is the right time for us to adopt.  We are also in the process of preparation and have initiated a home study in order to be prepared for the potential adoption.

There are other ways to respond besides adopting a child yourself.  There are many adoption agencies and organizations which can use your financial support and prayers.  If you personally know a couple that is trying to adopt, you can support them directly.  Adoption can be an expensive proposition as parents-to-be must complete home studies, get background checks, pay for travel, and many other costs.  Additionally, you can get involved as a foster parent, with commitments ranging from full-time foster care to respite care where you watch a child for short periods of time.  Finally, you can impact the lives of orphans or vulnerable children by volunteering for organizations such as Big Brother Big Sister.

So I ask you again: how will you respond?  Will you investigate adoption for yourself and your family?  Will you consider supporting another family that is trying to adopt, whether through prayer or finances?  Will you reach out to orphans or foster children in your neighborhood?  The need is tremendous, but we serve a God who can do the impossible.  He is a Father to the fatherless – are we?

October 10, 2010

First things First

We know that it is our mission as Christians to serve and worship God.  When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  One way that we love God is through giving God from our time, talent and treasure.

I think that it is important to give not just of our time, talent and treasure, but to give the first and the best.  It is easy to find examples in the Bible the importance of the giving the first of our treasure.  Genesis Chapter 4 tells the story of Cain and Able.  Verse 3 says that Cain brought some of this fruits, but that Able brought the fat portions of firstborn of his flocks, the best and the first.  God’s displeasure with Cain’s offering was that he was not giving the best portion of the first as Able was.

Later, in the giving of the law we learn about first fruits offerings and tithing.  In the various feasts and sacrifices that the Israelites are commanded to make, they are told to “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God.” Exodus 23:19.

Giving the first and best of our time may be harder to distinguish.  We see a story in Luke 10:38-42 of two women and the example of how they are spending their time.  While Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to him teach, Martha works to make preparations for Jesus and the others that are visiting.

Martha often gets the bad rap in this story, but lets think about her situation more. As we see in other passages in the gospels, there is often very large crowds following Jesus as he travels the countryside, and often the people are not well prepared for the journey, as there are a couple miracles recorded of Jesus feeding thousands.  Mary, Martha and their family were good friends of Jesus, so it is natural in that culture, that Jesus would come stay with them.  So with Jesus, and also staying at Martha’s house, would be the twelve disciples and perhaps dozens of others, all without food.  Martha saw this great need of all these people, and in her way of reaching out to them, began working hard to make preparations for their visit.  It’s not wise for us to condemn Martha for the work she was doing, as we often make a similar mistake of not seeing where we are failing to put God first in our lives.

Martha, then tries to tell Jesus to tell Mary to get up and help.  Again, I don’t think Jesus condemns Martha here, but lovingly tells here, that Mary has sought what is best, first.  What Martha was doing was good and necessary, but she did not put first things first.  Mary saw what was best, and saw that the most important thing to be doing was sitting with Jesus, listening to his teaching.  Mary put Jesus first, before the other “necessary” activities.

We also have this opportunity to put God first in our lives.  The Jews celebrated the Sabbath on Saturday, the last day in their week.  Christians observe Sabbath on Sunday, the first day of the week.  The Sabbath gives us the opportunity to start our week focused on God, to rest and reflect and remember that it is God who is first in our lives.  We can also remember to pray and take time for God each morning, to know that we work by His grace, for His glory.

Third, we can give God the first and best of our talent.  Our talent is often observed in the jobs that we do.  Most people are working in a job that uses one or many talents that they have.  We are able to exercise our talents in the work that we do.  When spending time at church on Sundays, or starting the day at home, or during the commute to work, it is good to remember that even in the work that we do, we are serving God with our talents.  We can give ourselves to our jobs, working hard, because it is for God that we work.  The best example of this is the verse in Colossians: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”

So today, I encourage you, in the way that you use your time, talent, and treasure, give your first and your best to God, for everything we have comes from God, and we can show our love for God by giving our first and best to Him.

April 5, 2010

Taking the fall…of man

Filed under: Uncategorized — ejwcpa @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8

Paul talks about how in his society, a man would scarcely give his life for a righteous or even good man, people have little interest in giving up their life.  Perhaps a man would give up his life for his own child, but in few other circumstances.  Jesus not only gave up his life, but gave up his life for the wicked, the sinners.  While man would scarcely give up his life for the best of man, Jesus meanwhile gave up his life for the worst of man.  We would not even take the fall for even the most minute, trivial thing, in fact, when anything small bad happens in our lives, it is the American way to immediately sue everyone, nothing can be our fault, of course, so we’ll find someone else to fault.  But Jesus, blameless, without fault, took the fall of man, took the sin of the world and died on the cross for us – something against all comprehension.  What an amazing sacrifice that Jesus made.

Remembering this sacrifice in our daily lives is central to being Christian.  Some comparisons came to mind as I heard this passage read.  It reminded me of what life was like in a CPA firm.  There’s a popular blog called “Stuff Accountants Like,” maybe you’ve read some of it maybe not.  It might only be funny (or sad) if you’ve worked in a large CPA firm.  It takes a sarcastic and humorous look at the little things that are popular in a CPA firm.  Number nine on this list is “Throwing People Under the Bus.”  It reads like this:

For accountants, getting thrown under the bus ranks somewhere on the scale between daily and weekly. If an accountant is not currently being thrown under the bus, you can rest assured that: (1) they will soon be under the bus or (2) they are actively throwing other people under a bus. This is easy for you to remember since there are no exceptions.

Throwing someone under the bus means to blame somebody else and have them take the fall. It is important to note that this does not mean the person being blamed actually did anything wrong. Also, people generally throw the people working for them under the bus, and not the other way around (though it does happen).

Many problems that accountants have (work is incomplete, budget is catastrophically blown, hatred towards fellow officemates, etc.) are addressed by throwing people under the bus. It is important to note here that this doesn’t mean the problem is solved. Some managers have a reputation for throwing people under the bus, which they’ve earned for good reason.

What can you take away from this lesson about accountants? When working with accountants, you will get thrown under the bus for no good reason and probably often. So if you can’t avoid working with accountants, you should make sure that you are the person in-charge, and that way you can opt to throw or not throw your team under the bus.”

I read this blog entry right about the time that I was currently being thrown under the bus, so it really rang home.  I would imagine that this scenario is probably prevalent in most people’s workplaces, though probably not to the extent that it takes place in a CPA firm.  In our workplaces, and in our country, taking responsibility has become so foreign, that making others take the fall, regardless of blame, is now the norm, and this blog entry is a good illustration of that norm.

We can demonstrate the behavior that Paul talks about in this passage, not necessarily by dying, but by first taking responsibility for our actions, and taking the fall for our own mistakes, rather than passing the blame to others.  This can be a hard thing to do, considering that taking the fall can often mean missing a promotion or hurting our reputation.  But we have faith in knowing that our rewards do not come from men but come from God.  Jesus has already taken the ultimate fall for us.  When we are in the kingdom, God’s measure of success is not the same as man’s measure of success.  Jesus points this out in the beatitudes, saying that the attitudes and types of people that are often shunned or looked down upon in the world are praised by God.

Taking the fall and the responsibility for mistakes may often result in short term delays in worldly success.  But Paul implores us in Philippians 2:3-4 to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Our mission on earth, as Christians may be different than the goals of many of those around us, and our success is measured differently than our workplaces may dictate.  But this does not mean that we will not achieve reward.  We have the greatest father in the universe, and father who loves us and wants to give us good things (Matthew 7:9-12).  Be patient, run the good race, and while worldly success may not come to you in the way you’d expect, success will come in God’s kingdom.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.